When a camera boasts a spec sheet as impressive as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, we'd be happy to be introduced to it in the arcade at Butlins. So it was a bonus that we saw it in Monte Carlo instead, hence the very un-London skies in our pictures. The LX3 is a top-end compact, similar to the Canon Powershot G9.
Leaving aside all the whistles and bells, which we'll get to in a moment, the most important spec is the size of the sensor: it's a relatively large 1/1.63-inch CCD developed specially for this camera. Panasonic has sidestepped the megapixel race somewhat by keeping the LX3 at 10.1 megapixel resolution to cut down on problems with noise.
Next most interesting feature is the wide-angle Leica lens. It's 24mm, equivalent to a 35mm film camera, which is one of the widest angles in the compact market. You can select from any of three aspect ratios; 4:3, 3:2 or 16:9, while multi-aspect mode captures an image in all 3 aspect ratios near simultaneously.
Other clever options include optical image stabilisation and image levelling, which corrects wonky images automatically. An auto focus function lets you choose the number of auto focus points in the frame with a button on the camera top, followed by another push to enlarge the area surrounding the point of focus to check the focusing accuracy.
As well as the usual smorgasbord of scene modes, there are six colour and three monochrome film modes that replicate the effects of certain films. A multiple-exposure function adds to the creative options, overlaying up to three consecutive images while viewing a ghost of the most recent image in the monitor.
The package is rounded out by a 2.5 frames per second, full-resolution burst mode, topping out at eight images in standard mode and four in fine mode. Like the Samsung NV24HD and forthcoming NV100HD, the LX3 uses HD as more than a marketing wheeze. On top of 1920x1080 pixel high-definition photos, the LX3 shoots 1280x720p video at a smooth 24 fps.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 will join its sibling cameras and camcorders on the shelves from August for around £399.99. Click through the pictures to see more of Panasonic's flagship compact, including bags more features and bolt-on bits and pieces. -Rich Trenholm